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2022 SouthWest Classic shaping up to be huge, grueling matchup

by Michael Hanich | September 21, 2022 at 9:15 a.m.

The Southwest Classic is back with another highly anticipated matchup between the #10 Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0) and the #23 Texas A&M Aggies (2-1) set for Saturday, Sept. 24.

The rivalry game will be the second conference game of the season for Arkansas and the first this year for Texas A&M.

Arkansas beat A&M three years in a row after the rivalry was first revived in 2009, but in 2012 the Aggies joined the SEC and the Razorbacks began to fluctuate. Texas A&M went on to win the annual rivalry matchup nine times in a row.

Last season, #16 Arkansas shocked the college football world two weeks after beating Texas by upsetting #7 Texas A&M, 20-10. The Hogs' offense and defense had a tough and grueling performance against the Aggies. Arkansas outgained Texas A&M in total yards accounted for, 443 to 272.

Sophomore dual-threat quarterback KJ Jefferson had one of the best games of his young career against the Aggies last year. He completed 7-of-15 of his passes for 212 yards and a QBR of 92.6. He also rushed for 50 yards on eight carries. His top target, junior wide receiver Treylon Burks, caught six receptions for 167 yards and a touchdown.

The key in the game was the line of scrimmage, where the Razorbacks' offensive and defensive lines overpowered the Aggies. Arkansas' defense accounted for three sacks, nine tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits against Texas A&M's the offense. Grant Morgan and Tre Williams accounted for three quarterback hits. Arkansas' offensive line held the defense to two sacks, eight tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.

So far this season, Arkansas has allowed an average of 27 points per game. They are coming off a close 38-27 win over the Missouri State Bears, led by former head coach Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks allowed 357 passing yards from the Missouri State's offense and 409 total yards.

The Razorbacks' defense is allowing 352.7 or 353 passing yards per game, the most of all 131 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. They allowed 325 passing yards in week one versus Cincinnati with a new starting quarterback and 376 passing yards from South Carolina in week two. While the pass rush has been highly efficient, the play from the secondary has been underwhelming.

Luckily for Arkansas' defense, they will be facing Texas A&M offense that is among the worst in the SEC and the nation. In three games played so far this season, Texas A&M has averaged 20.7 points per game, last in the SEC. The Aggies are also last in the SEC in total yards allowed per game (313.7) and 13th (second-to-last) in passing yards allowed per game (208).

After the embarrassing loss at home to the Appalachian State Mountaineers 17-14 in week two, Texas A&M made the switch at quarterback from Haynes King to Max Johnson. While the passing game did not improve tremendously, it helped Texas A&M beat the previously undefeated #13 Miami Hurricanes, 17-9. The Aggies' defense was the biggest factor for the win.

For the Razorbacks to get the win over the Aggies, they will need to make plays in the backfield and force Johnson to make bad throws. Junior outside linebacker and Alabama Crimson Tide transfer Drew Sanders has accumulated 28 total tackles, 16 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups in his career. He will be needed to provide solid pass coverage against the efficient Aggies offensive line. The Razorbacks' secondary will need to play efficiently and keep Johnson from having a breakout performance.

Arkansas' offense will need to overpower the defense of Texas A&M like they did last season. The offensive line is still efficient and intact and they have a more efficient rushing offense this season. Through the first three games of the season, sophomore running back Raheim Sanders has rushed for 440 yards and three touchdowns on 66 carries.

Texas A&M is a 2.5-point favorite over Arkansas as of Monday afternoon.

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